Juliana Pilon and Alexander Riley, senior fellows of The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI), have published reviews of new books. Dr. Pilon reviewed Mark Oppenheimer’s Spring Hill: The Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting and the Soul of a Neighborhood (2021) for the online magazine Law & Liberty. Alexander Riley reviewed A Most Interesting Problem: What Darwin’s Descent of Man Got Right and Wrong about Human Evolution (2021), an anthology edited by Jeremy DeSilva and Janet Browne, for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture.
In Antisemitism in America, Dr. Pilon warns that “what happens to the Jews never ends with the Jews; the perennial scapegoat, they are also the perennial canary.” The Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, a progressive, egalitarian congregation, experienced the deadliest antisemitic attack in United States history. A lone gunman named Robert Gregory Bowers killed eleven worshippers and wounded six others. The Spring Hill synagogue may not survive the losses. Jews, Pilon notes, have changed their behavior in the aftermath of the attack.
Oppenheim, in an otherwise admirable account of the Spring Hill Jewish community, shows surprising disinterest, however, in looking directly at the perpetrator of the crime. “We cannot afford to not understand our enemies, who believe that some lives matter while others do not,” Dr. Pilon writes, “lest civilization should come to an end.”
Dr. Riley, a professor of sociology at Bucknell University, finds DeSilva and Browne’s collection filled with unscientific political pronouncements that having nothing to do with the serious analysis of Charles Darwin. “Contemporary academia’s cantillations of diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Riley writes, “come through loud and clear here.” DeSilva contends that science “stagnates when it is done by homogeneous scientists with similar backgrounds and experiences.” In ‘Woke’ Evolution, Riley counters: Science rests on the shoulders of a “homogenous group of European men with similar backgrounds and experiences. The entirety of scientific history until less than a century ago was characterized by that homogeneity, and it was not stagnant as a result.”
The question of objectivity repeatedly enters discussion in the book. But many of the contributors misunderstand the nature of its pursuit, which is to eliminate what is untrue from what is possibly true. On the subject of inherent differences among human populations, some of the contributors would seem to deny the obvious, that human differences derive from long processes of natural selection, which help ensure survivability. One contributor “claim[s] against Darwin’s view is that humans are identical across more than 99 percent of our genome.” But that assertion hardly underwrites his case, for as Riley points out, “it is also true humans are identical with chimpanzees across nearly 99 percent of our comparable DNA sequences.”